Fall is fast approaching, and when many of us think of this season of cooler temps and falling leaves, we also think of Halloween.
Some of your kids are probably already dreaming of their costumes, Halloween parties, trick-or-treating – AND all the candy.
What is the best way for a parent to approach this season to maximize fun while minimizing the health issues caused by megadoses of sugar?
First, how bad are Halloween treats for your health? Let’s look at American Heart Association guidelines for sugar in the diet.
For children and teens ages 2-18 years, the maximum intake of sugar should be no more than 25 grams daily. These recommendations are made to not just limit daily calories – ingesting processed sugars causes our bodies’ insulin levels to spike, leading to increased sugar cravings in the short term, and increased fat storage longer-term, fueling the childhood obesity epidemic and increasing our kids’ rates of obesity-related conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Keeping those recommendations in mind, let’s look at some typical candies that are passed out to trick-or-treaters:
- One Snickers Fun Size bar contains 17 grams of added sugar.
- A Jelly Belly Snack Pack contains 18 grams of added sugar.
- One single Milky Way Mini contains 27 grams of sugar – that’s more than an entire days’ worth of sugar!
And let’s face it – most kids don’t stop at just one or two pieces of candy on Halloween night.
How can we minimize the damage of overindulgence in sugars on this holiday, and maximize the fun? Here are some tips for parents and families:
- Never send your child to a Halloween party with an empty stomach. Make sure she eats a high-protein meal beforehand with plenty of vegetables and fruits, which will minimize her desire to overindulge.
- Same goes for Halloween night: Make sure everyone partakes in a nutritious, protein-rich meal before trick-or-treating.
- Set a limit beforehand with your child on how much Halloween candy is OK to eat at once. Whether you feel comfortable with two bite-size bars or five, when limits are set, kids tend not to overindulge.
- For Halloween parties, prepare healthier snacks and treats for kids. How about these Banana Ghosts and Pumpkin Tangerine snacks.
- Following the Halloween holiday, get your kids back on the healthy-eating track by preparing protein- and vegetable-rich meals for several days after.
- Check in with your local dental office. Many offer incentive programs for kids to turn in their Halloween candy, such as payment per pound or small gifts. Most kids will love getting rewarded in some way for making healthy choices!